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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Duty to denounce religious extremists not unique to Muslims

    When some sort of horrible political catastrophe occurs and radical Muslims are the perpetrators, moderate Muslims are expected to proclaim their denouncement of radical Islam from the rooftops. If they don’t do this – or even when they do – then conservative cartoonists, columnists and commentators are quick to proclaim that Muslims aren’t doing enough.

    But religious whitewashing takes place on both sides of the fence. For every instance in which Muslims have been, in the eyes of some, “”too silent”” in decrying the acts of fellow Muslims, there’s an instance where Christians and Jews have done the same.

    In 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 editorial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in a mocking fashion. This is blasphemous to Muslims, so large numbers of Muslims took to the streets in Denmark and other countries, protesting the cartoons, demanding retribution and, in some cases, requesting censorship in the form of laws that prohibit blasphemous or discriminatory speech. Conservative Christians were rather mirthful at the entire affair, and they blasted moderate Muslims for not denouncing the protesters and upholding a commitment to free speech (even though many moderate Muslims did exactly that).

    In July of this year, University of Central Florida student Webster Cook aroused the wrath of the Catholic community when, during Mass, he took a Eucharist wafer but did not consume it. To Catholics, the Eucharist wafer is – symbolically or literally, depending on whom you ask – the flesh of Christ. Some extremist Catholics like Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, demanded harsh penalties for the student. Cook allegedly even received death threats, and some Catholics proclaimed that holding the Eucharist hostage was the worst thing a person could do – seriously.

    Here’s the million-dollar question. Which is sillier: Getting teeth-gnashingly upset because of a cartoon or because of a cracker?

    When biologist and atheist blogger PZ Myers took this a step further by desecrating the Eucharist with a rusty nail, radical Catholics were even angrier, and they called for harsh penalties for Myers, such as dismissal from his professorship at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

    The major difference between the Catholic response here and the Muslim response to the Jyllands-Posten cartoons seems to be one of degree, not of kind. If Myers were a little more famous, I wouldn’t have been surprised if radical Catholics had violently protested worldwide the same way radical Muslims did in response to the cartoons.

    But if Muslims should be expected to distance themselves from radicals in their religion, why shouldn’t Catholics? All you mainstream Catholics out there: Why aren’t you out in droves, denouncing Bill Donohue and his cronies for their attempts at censorship? Why aren’t you steadfastly proclaiming your devotion to free speech, even when it offends you?

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of us agree that terrorism is, directly or indirectly, an attack on freedom. But many Christians and Jews have been fairly quiet when their religions undertake other means to undermine freedom.

    Muslims have gotten an unfair rap in this country since Sept. 11, and the constant pressure on average Muslim citizens who just want to live normal American lives is ill-placed, undeserved and unnecessary.

    There are two ways to fix this problem. First, we can continue pointing fingers at the Muslim community for not being forthcoming enough in speaking out against terrorism. This means we should demand that everyone, everywhere, loudly condemn members of their religious group who commit hateful acts in the name of the religion. Of course, I’ll have to expect conservative Christians to do so as well, which means they’ll have to be very vocal about something other than gay marriage or abortion.

    Or we can completely set aside the culture of guilt by association which has become epidemic in this country. Terrorist attacks do not define Islam any more than Bill Donohue defines Catholicism. Muslims have already repudiated the methods of extremists, and even if they didn’t, they would do so implicitly by not supporting them.

    Most importantly, Muslims do not have some kind of sacred duty to prove Islamophobes wrong. Islamophobes are wrong – period. Extremist religion in all forms is a threat to freedom and democracy everywhere. This is obvious. No one – Christian, Jew or Muslim – should have to state it.

    – Taylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in

    ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at

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